Washington, April 18 IANS | 4 months ago

Know where did our ancestors find free vitamin B3 supply? From meteorites that delivered the essential vitamin to earth from space!

Ancient earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to NASA researchers.

"Earlier work has shown that vitamin B3 could have been produced non-biologically on ancient Earth, but it is possible that an added source of vitamin B3 could have been helpful," said Karen Smith of Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

Vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, is essential to metabolism and likely very ancient in origin.

The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to earth by comet and meteor impacts.

In the new work at NASA's Goddard's astrobiology analytical laboratory, Smith and her team analysed samples from eight different carbon-rich meteorites.

They found vitamin B3 at levels ranging from about 30 to 600 parts-per-billion.

They also found other pyridine carboxylic acids at similar concentrations and, for the first time, found pyridine dicarboxylic acids.

"We discovered a pattern - less vitamin B3 was found in meteorites that came from asteroids that were more altered by liquid water. One possibility may be that these molecules were destroyed during the prolonged contact with liquid water," Smith explained.

Space is filled with radiation from nearby stars as well as from violent events in deep space like exploding stars and black holes devouring matter.

This radiation could have powered chemical reactions in the cloud (nebula) that formed the solar system, and some of those reactions may have produced biologically important molecules like vitamin B3, the researchers noted.

The paper was published in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.

(Posted on 18-04-2014)